Welcome All! I'm a dreamer, I hope you are too! A Posse ad Esse, or From possibility to reality, is a general state of mind. I hope you'll share your possibilities with me as I will with you. Namaste~

November 30, 2008


How do you define “Family”? Maybe it’s just you and your spouse. Perhaps you have a couple of kids and parents included. I was thinking about this the other day and realized it’s really a pretty hard thing to define sometimes. Of course when I’m asked how my families doing, the first ones I think of are my wife and kids, who wouldn’t? But really I think more and more it’s about the people that you chose to allow yourself to let in.

The last few years have made me have to re-think how I look at it. I’m forced to get a little more personal here than I usually do, but I think it’s with good reason. My wife and I have three boys that live with us. They’ve been with me since the youngest was just 18 months old. You see, I’m not their biological father, although I did adopt them about 6 years ago. Their biological father was A~’s ex (Heretofore referred to as X~) and there was a time that we had a hard time dealing with some of the issues that naturally come about in such a situation. We wanted things one way, he wanted them another and of course that left three little boys in the middle. There came a point when he and we came to decide that it was best just to let me adopt them. We would have the control over their future that we were so worried about, and he wouldn’t have to be so caught trying to fill a position that he seemed to be having a hard time coming to grips with. It was a blessing, I think, for all of us and is something that although it took a couple of years to fully digest, has benefited all of us greatly.

I can’t speak for X~, nor would I want to, but I assume that he’s had problems with me in the past just as I have had with him; that, I’m sure, was unavoidable. Here’s the thing though, over the last couple of years we seem to have found some oddly peaceful way of all coexisting that I never could have imagined, but am so immensely grateful for. It’s not even just he and I that have found some commonality but rather that all of us, in our hopes for what would be best for our boys, have.

So why am I talking about this? Because we just had a Thanksgiving evening that was unlike any other that I ever thought I would have, and you know what? It was good. A~ and I had family over for the evening. But to define it as such takes a little bit of creativity. You see, it wasn’t just her and I and the boys with her dad and his girlfriend, but also X~ and his mom and her husband who is not X~’s father. Two distinctly different family components came together, hers with her father and his with his mother. And each of them came with someone that wasn’t related to A~ or X~. Then there was me, not in anyway related, biologically anyway, with anyone at the table. What were the commonalities? We all wanted to be together with people we loved. Did we all love each other? No. Hey I’m just being honest here; this isn’t pie in the sky stuff. But I know we all love either the boys, or at the very least the people who love the boys. So we have a choice don’t we? Do we shuttle kids around to each others homes, schedule parcels of time when we all get to be with loved ones, and waste half a day in the process, or do we accept that we have some differences, but that really what matters most is we all care deeply for our families and want to foster that without boundaries?

As it were, we chose the latter and I think we were all better for it. We prayed together, ate together and laughed together. Our children/grandchildren were happy and felt loved. They got to visit, play with and be loved by not only one family or the other, but by both. For our part, A~, X and I that is, we didn’t have to worry about squeezing in a good holiday with the boys in time to get them over to the other house. We got to slow down, enjoy the company and be thankful for the season and for all of our gifts and blessings.

So I ask again, how do you define “Family”? Who do you chose to let in to your fold? Sometimes it really might not be entirely up to us who they are, but rather whether we chose to accept them and be happy with what we have. I do.

I hope all of your Thanksgivings were wonderful and look forward to hearing from you all soon.

Thanksgiving was great.

Thanksgiving was great at our place, I hope it was for all of you as well. (At least for those of you in the states.) A~ set a beautiful table as always.She never ceases to amaze me with what she can do with so little. No new decorations, and even the ones that we did use came largely from thrift stores or we've had them for years. One really good idea that I've found that she does is to find and keep things that aren't trendy but rather are just simple, classy and timeless.
I did the turkey again this year and, if I may say so, it was delicious! Cooking Turkeys is one of the few dedicated chores that I've been given with regard to the cooking, so as it nearly always is with specialists, I've gotten pretty good at it. I stuff the bird under the skin and although I don't generally like white meat on chickens or turkeys, cooked this way I do. It literally drips juices.
I'm keeping this short and sweet as I have a little bit "deeper" post to put up in a minute. Hope you all are doing great ans enjoyed time with family. I did, and I'm ready to write some more.
Talk to ya tomorrow.

November 25, 2008

Taking a break

There are a couple of times a year when I will purposefully take a blogging break. Thanksgiving and Christmas are a couple of them. That said, I'm checking out for a couple of days, at least from my regular daily postings. I will be working on a post for my other couple of blogging gigs here and there, but most likely won't put anything up again until next Monday.

I wish for all of you, my friends, family and regular readers alike my best wishes. I know many of you are spread around the globe, outside of the US, and that this weekend is just another weekend for you. For me, it is time to spend with family. Work on puzzles, play games, visit and tell stories. It's a time to reflect, particularly at this challenging time for many of us, about our many gifts and blessings and to give thanks for them.

Please know that if your are reading this, whether your local to me or halfway around the world, you are one of the things I am thankful for. I enjoy, more than almost anything, the interaction that we share, and the community that seems to be building here. Whether it's a holiday weekend for you or not, enjoy it and emrace it.

God bless!


More goodies!!

As promised, this evenings post is a continuation of yesterdays post in showing the sweet goodies that A~ and I were gifted by her Mom. Today's installment, the food dehydrator that she's had, if I understand correctly, since A~ was a kid but never really used very often. We know how to fix that problem!! I hung a lot of the herbs and things this year that I pulled from the garden but it would be great to be able to dry some this way as well. And then there's jerky, and fruits, and veggies...and...oh you get it, we've wanted one for a while. Ad last but not least, the coolest little "must have" for any home hennery, the egg weigher. I saw one of these on Tiny Farm Blog, and just loved it. Do I need it? No. Did I want one just because, and is it a totally frivolous thing? Yes. But really, how cool is that right?
I just love the chipped and "well loved" appearance of it too. There'll be no repainting of this little baby. The kids like weighing the eggs too.

Thanks again Mom, we, I appreciate the effort you put into finding these things. So nice to know that our family does support our endeavors, and they do, on both sides. Now, what can I dehydrate in the winter???
Till tomorrow.

November 23, 2008

It's like Christmas!!..... In November?

Or at least it seems that way. A~'s Dad got to our house today, all the way out from West (by God) Virgina for Thanksgiving. He drove all the way out and had planned the trip for months, but how he managed to time it perfectly for the lowest gas prices in years I'll never know. Either way, he's here now and we're glad to have him.

Since he drove out, he was able to bring out a few things from WV that he otherwise wouldn't have been able to. A~'s Mom, at our request, had gone out to a couple of second hand stores in their area to look for stone crocks for us. From what I understand they searched for somewhere in the neighborhood of an hour and picked these two up for us. They're in really good shape too! The one on the left is a beautiful six gallon crock and the other is a two gallon one. We've looked here for crocks, and have only found them in one shop. That six gal one would have probably set us back close to $150.00. Hence, the reason we have been thus far crockless. Ilex, a blog-friend has a beautiful collection of crocks that I've been so envious of, and she made a great point the other day in a reply to me, as a matter of fact, that was pretty spot on I think. Crocks are one of those things in American culinary history that really don't exist in the west. I mean I'm sure they were used to a point, but were never as big as they were in areas east of the Mississippi. We have some now though, so fermented pickles are on the radar for next season, and oh the sauerkraut I can make in that six gallon baby!! We had some tonight as a matter of fact, after we unloaded the crocks and got to talking about them and the things we'll make, which naturally lead to talking about kraut, which made us all hungry. Fortunately for us, my latest batch of kraut has just gotten edible and we had kielbasa and brats in the fridge so that was a no-brainer.

So here's what I need to know, what kind of crock-made goodies have any of you made? Do you have recipies to share, or books that you recommend I add to the winter reading list? I'm really excited about exploring this ancient method of preserving foods. Thanks so much T~, I really appreciate the time and thought that you put into finding these for us, they'll be put to good use!

Oh yeah, and guess what else? That's not it, we got two other great surprises from Mom, but you'll have to wait until tomorrow for those. (Ain't I a tease??)

November 21, 2008

Growing Possibilities

I've still got a bit of sniffles, but the sore throat seems to be gone and I'm feeling quite a bit better tonight. Whether I felt 100% or not though I'd have to be on here to leave this post for you because tonight I've got some pretty cool news. I'm expanding again.

No no no... I don't mean like my waist line or anything, although next week if history holds true that may be the case as well. What I'm talking about is my writing is expanding again. Some of you may be familiar with a sister magazine of Mother Earth News called Grit Magazine. It is a rural-lifestyle magazine and is, in their words, dedicated to "maintaining the valuable rural traditions of community and stewardship in the United States". Now what's not to love about that right? Well now I get to be a part of that effort, you see I'll be writing a weekly blog for their web site called "Growing Possibilities". You can find it on their Reader Blogs page, (I'm the guy right at the top with the chicken) or link right over to it HERE.

I think that this will be a great place for me to share a lot of the things that I do around my place that differ from the way someone might do it, for instance, on a real farm, or at least on a place with more acreage. I work a much smaller piece of earth than many of the Grit readers probably do, but I think there are a lot of people that, like me, have yearned for a more earth-centric life even if it means making it in their suburban back yard. As I reasearched and learned more about what was possible I found a number of people and families, the Dervaes for instance, that were able to do so much on thier little piece of land and were such an inspiration to me. My hope is that as time goes on, I can be of some small help to others as well; passing it on so to speak. That's a good part of why I've been making it a goal this year to expand my writing, teaching and sharing as much as I can. This will be a great addition I think.

For all of you who have been with me for the last few years, I hope you'll stop by there once in a while as well. I'll generally only be posting something once a week, but it will usually be new information from the stuff I put on here and I'll put a notice up when I do post there. For any new readers coming over from Grit, welcome! I hope you'll take a look through some of the older posts and weigh in when you feel comfortable.

Here's to growing again...Growing Possibilities that is!

November 20, 2008

Please excuse me...

I think I've caught a bug.
Sore throat, sniffles, you know, the works. I'll try to get something up tomorrow before taking my weekend break. But for now, please excuse me.
Hope all of you are well.

November 19, 2008

Video Retry

Alright, let's try this video thing again. This was what I had planned to post up last night but couldn't. It's been put together from a couple of clips so excuse the flow of it. It's been a long time since my video editing classes.

I have to say I was surprised at a couple of the reactions to the garden pictures from last night though. I guess I don't think of it as all that small anymore. I mean it is small, relatively, but since I've begun to see how much is possible on a small plot, I realize how much potential I have available. I also wanted to clarify, and the video will as well, that a good part of the garden beds that were in the bottom picture weren't even there this summer. They are completely new. So that 500#'s of food came from even less space than I showed you. It is possible!

Hope you enjoyed the clip. As a matter of fact, I'd love to hear your feedback on the videos that I've been putting up. Do they help? Are they worth the effort? Do you absolutely love them and want to give me my own TV show???? (Hey, it could happen?!?)
Take care all.

FYI :: If you haven't had a chance to get over to the Simple Green Frugal website yet, today's a good time to check in. I just posted an article on frugal decorating.

November 18, 2008

Garden layout, coop location and such.

I've gotten a lot of interest lately in my chicken coop and more precisely about the location of it and what I do with the manure. Being the visual sort that I am, I've been trying to take advantage of Bloggers video feature more lately. I was pretty happy with the way that the chicken coop design video came out, so I thought I'd expound on that and just give ya'll a personal tour of the back yard gardens. (edit: Blogger video feature was not working tonight so the video I planned on posting will have to be posted at a later date. Sorry for confusion.) I do need to preface this, however, with an apology for the mess that is our back yard. Spring and Fall are our busy seasons for yard projects. Expanding beds, building new structures, moving things around to get ready for next year. The garden may be sleeping in, but I haven't been. Most stuff has been sorted out, but it's still kind of a mess. Oh well, it's my mess!

(Pictures substituted for blogger video. I'll repost when I can get the darn thing to work)

So, Whatcha think? It's nothing grand, but we've tried to find a balance between maximizing space for the gardens, with still being able to give my kids a safe place to play. As they play less and less in the yard, we'll no doubt expand more and more into the yard. For now, it's all about maximizing the growth potential per square inch.

To answer the questions directly about the chicken manure. Yes, Renee, I do put the chicken poo in the compost bins. I also have put in the garden directly, but don't recommend it unless it is in the fall, or in the early spring for a summer garden bed. Chicken manure is a very "hot" manure when it's fresh and can easily burn your plants, particularly young ones. I did add a large amount of the chicken manure to the compost bins though when I first set them up. I do sometimes add it directly to the garden beds, but I sprinkle a little agricultural lime in with it. This neutralizes the PH of the manure, and "sweetens" the soil. My basic philosophy with the manure is this; All kitchen scraps go to the birds, (moderate strong veggies like onions, garlic and peppers.) all bird droppings are composted, all compost goes to the gardens, garden waste go to birds...etc, etc. I have also used the "aged, and not actually composted manure directly on some of my lawn areas that were having a hard time. It worked very well!

To answer another question, left by Amber, regarding the use of old newsprint in lasagna beds. It is the rare exception that does not use a soy based ink in the newspaper industry anymore. Nearly all newsprint can be successfully composted or used to smother. I personally had access to a lot of heavy cardboard so I used that instead. You'll have to check in next spring to find out how the lasagna beds develop over the winter.
That's all for now folks. Sorry for the video not working. I'll try tomorrow.
Till then...

November 17, 2008

Addressing a comment

I got a comment posted today that I thought I would address. I don't do this to be confrontational, but I could see it being taken as such so I wanted to state for the record that that is not the intent. I had posted some time back about whether I was missing something in how we seemed to have skipped the entire Thanksgiving season. Today I got this post from a friend, neighbor and fellow blogger:

Happy "Native America Genocide Day!"
Sorry to be the wet sheet, many "American Indians" or "Native Americans" (such as myself) feel that if our forefathers hadn't held the first Thanksgiving, we might not have gone through the culling and near extermination that the settlers forced upon the native peoples.
Another common sentiment among native peoples is that our proverbial olive branch and welcoming gesture that was the First Thanksgiving was not reciprocated by the white settlers, and was answered with deceit and (despite what is force-fed to our children in public schools).
Anyhow, not trying to put a damper on anyone's holiday celebrations, just bringing up another point of view.
- http://www.joelevi.com/

To a point I know where he's coming from. I mean, our U.S. history is littered with the remnants of many cultures, not the least of which is the Native American Indians. They were in large part a trusting people when the visitors from overseas came to their shores and yes, they were mistreated, abused, killed and removed from their native lands in many cases. It is a black mark on American History.
It's not the only one though is it? What about slavery? How about the way that nearly every group of immigrants has been persecuted when they first arrived? Even the Irish were considered inferior to Anglo Americans and called unassimilatable into US culture once upon a time.

So what's my point, to ignore the plight on our Native American population because "hey, other groups had it hard too?" No. My point is that the greater promise of America, in my opinion, does not lie in rehashing our failures of the past. I wouldn't expect my children, who are of easily traceable Irish descent, to hold a grudge against their country because their ancestors were relegated to the worst jobs. I don't believe in allowing ones name, or race to hold them back either. The only boundaries we have in our way that can truly impede us are the ones we place there ourselves. No, I believe in fact that the greatest promise the America holds and the reason that day after day and year after year there are people from around the globe clamouring to get in here, is that we have the ability to admit our mistakes, do our best to correct them, and even more so, we have the unique gift of largely being able to decide for ourselves what it is that we will be able to attain.

The Irish, Italian and Asian communities (among others) have overcome the prejudices that were in their way. The children of black slaves have opportunities that their grandparents could only have dreamed of, to include of course the attaining of the highest office. And for myself, son of a poor kid who's Dad pushed him to do better for himself and, oh yeah, a direct descendant of Native Americans as well, I'm pretty proud of my country even with it's mistakes.

So just as Christmas has evolved from it's early Christian/pagan origins and became what it is today. (Minus of course the over-commercializing of it. That's another story.) So too has Thanksgiving evolved. Most people celebrate Thanksgiving today, with exception to the "token pilgrim/Indian decorations", not as a time of thanks for being welcomed to this continent, or celebration for the way the native population was wronged in the process, but rather as a time to give thanks to their God and their family for the blessings that they have. Thanks for the time we have to spend together, and to give to others of their time and their bounty.

So, that's my opinion on the matter. As stated, I don't mean to be confrontational, but it's my blog and while I will not edit (with obvious exception of spam or vulgarity) the comments left here, I can't say that I will agree with them all. Nor will I sit quietly all the time.
Thank you.

November 16, 2008

Weekend Update

I had a great weekend.
I didn't really get an enormous amount of stuff done or anything, but I just had a good time. Saturday, A~ and I dropped the boys off in SLC to visit with some family for the weekend and we just kind of hung out together. It's not at all that I like having the boys gone, but I really enjoy the occasions that she and I get to just be a couple... not "Mom and Dad", you know? We stopped by a couple of our favorite places in town, mosied through a couple of shops, and had some of the best pizza in town! We also made a spontaneous stop at the home of a local blogger that I've gotten to know a bit. We got to meet his family, check out what he's got going on in his garden and talk about our plans for next year. It was the first time I've actually met anyone from online before. I was really pleased with it...(I hope he was too?) Anyway, later that night we got together with a couple of friends, had a couple of beers and BS'd for a while. Like I said, just a relaxing day. No matter how many goals we have, we do have to give ourselves a little time off from time to time don't we?

Sunday was a bit more work filled, with the exclusion of my San Diego Chargers game of course. (Nothing good to mention there!! #*%~$!&^) I moved the compost pile, yeah the one that I just set up a couple of months ago (Make a plan before you do big projects like that people...That's the lesson of the day!), and managed to add some 9 bags of leaves to the bin. I airated and added leaves to the one bin that was already in the process, and filled the second side completely with leaves, grass, coffee grounds and compost. I now have approximately 72 sq feet of compost cooking away for next year!! I am hoping that with what I have going now, and what I am adding to the beds this fall, I won't have to add any outside compost next year. At least not in the back yard gardens.

I also did my weekly coop care and cleaning to keep the birds happy and healthy. Next project on the list is to add onto the coop, for the winter, an outer shell of clear poly. I want to effectively make the outside of the coop like a sort of green house. Their water has been starting to ice over at night from time to time, so it's about time to shift gears again for the winter. I've heard about people actually useing the birds to keep a small greenhouse addition warm through the winter, allowing greens to grown all winter. I'm not sure if that's in the cards, but I am definitely entertaining the thought.

And that, folks, is about it for me. As I said it wasn't the most productive weekend, but it really was an enjoyable one. Hope yours was as well.

November 14, 2008

End of Consumerism?

As I listened to Talk of the Nation this evening, I heard an interesting notion being thrown out there, that we may be seeing the end of “The age of consumerism”. Really? Have we really gotten to that point? I’ve talked many times about reducing consumption, and I do truly believe that somewhere therein lays our future economic model. A lot of people – bloggers, pundits, activists and ordinary folks alike – are out there touting the benefits of abandoning our consumerist ways. Back to the land, simple living, DIYers or whatever the reason, there is one thing that we need to keep in mind. Whether or not we like it, we need an economy in this world. If it should it be a global or a local one I don’t pretend to know, but it will mean that we are consumers to some point. Some kind of goods or services will be exchanged. As I said, I’ve talked about this before, and I stand by my general belief that we need to reduce what we consume. I don’t, however, think that we should try to eliminate consumption, or should hold as the ultimate goal, for that matter, the elimination of consumption. But I do think that we should take a look closely at how we’ve been doing it.

As I see it, the conundrum with the whole consumerist - vs. - non-consumerist argument is that the conventional wisdom holds that economic growth is the solution to our economic problems, and that more buying is at the root of our economy. Buy more…better economy…where’s the argument right? More people buy stuff, which means more money is floating around, which means that more people get hired to service the buyers, which puts more money back into the system; it’s trickle-down economics at its core. Well the argument is valid if we take it at face value, but we aren’t are we. We’re not actually buying things when we’re out shopping. Alright some of us are, but most folks have been out there charging it or financing it. Don’t mistake that for buying, it is not the same thing. It’s merely a promise to buy something a little at a time. If that person and oh…200,000 or so friends of his… default on their loans, debts, credit cards, homes and whatever else, the manufacturers are left holding the bag. They can’t then pay their debtors, who in return say “Screw this!! I’m just gonna hold on to my money before I lose more!” And then you reach the point at which we find ourselves today don’t you? It’s financial gridlock or, to coin a phrase, “Trickle-up economic crisis.”

Take a look at the past 35 years with me. In 1972-75 and again in 1980-82, we had two 2 year recessions that were caused primarily by “oil shocks” where our need outpaced what we produced or could import. In the late 80’s/early 90’s we had another recession mainly attributed to a decrease in Industrial production and manufacturing-trade sales (Read: Chrysler (Sound familiar?)) And then in the late 90’s we had the infamous “dot-com” bubble burst. All three, whether energy based, manufacturing based or investment based, caused a major glitch in our economic system at the time. Right now we’re looking at all of them at the same time. Our housing bubble has burst, energy prices though lower right now have just come down from historic highs and OPEC is trying to get them back up there soon and the “heart of our industrial and manufacturing base”, the auto industry, is poised for bankruptcy. Add to that the fact that our banks are flailing and looking for ever more of our taxpayer dollars which can only cause enormous inflation in the future and the downward spiraling stock market and we’re looking at some tough times ahead whether we like it or not; many are already feeling them.

So let’s revisit that notion of reduced consumerism shall we? Let’s say that we don’t buy as much stuff, but when we do buy stuff we actually do BUY it. (Meaning of course that we pay for it with real money at the time we purchase it.) So now, the money that is flowing into the system is real money, meaning that it has been spent and transferred in ownership and can now be invested, loaned, kept or used for other REAL purchases. Wouldn’t the economy still grow? Wouldn’t there still be the opportunity to build wealth and use a free market, albeit perhaps a more equitable one? I can’t help but believe that it would be a more stable one. What if we started to embrace the idea of a green economy, where we were employing people in the professions of building and maintaining our own power so that then the money that we were spending on power could stay here in our economy as well rather than to send it oversees. What if we looked at our homes, not as banks to pull money out of when we wanted a new toy or wanted to pay off the ones we already bought and where we don’t even know the neighbors name but can tell you what kind of car he drives, but rather saw them as long term commitments where we helped to build communities and raise our kids. What would that be like huh? How would it be if we saved some of our money and invested it in our local banks, banks that by the way are one of the only sectors of the banking industry to be still afloat on its own? Am I being “pie in the sky here?” Is it possible? I don’t know but I’m tired of living the other way. I will still consume. I have to, and so too do you most likely. But I do know that the way I consume is changing and that’s for sure.

And look on the bright side, if we handle this the right way, maybe we’ll see a much better foundation on the other side.
Here's to hope!!

I wanted to clarify something from the article as well. It stated that “…President Bush's advice when asked, after the 9/11 attacks, what Americans should be doing. He urged Americans to keep shopping.” That isn’t actually completely accurate, although it does cut to the core of it. What he actually did say was “I ask your continued participation and confidence in the American economy.“ and at the time I think that that was good advice. We had been hit by something beyond our control, and we were scared. Our economy suffered then, but it could be healed by “business as usual”. He did however directly urge us to keep shopping in another speech, much more recently, when in a Dec. 2006 speech he stated, “A recent report on retail sales shows a strong beginning to the holiday shopping season across the country -- and I encourage you all to go shopping more.” Just holding the media to a modicum of accountability there.

November 12, 2008

Isn't it funny how when you are focused on something that it has a tendency to manifest itself? Well providence strikes again. A~ stopped by our local thrift store today and guess what she picked up? Lasagna Gardening by Patricia Lanza.
And Just after I've built my first Lasagna beds. I haven't read it yet, but have looked through it at some length and it has some really good information in it. Oh and don't let me forget the best part, She picked it up, essentially unopened, for four dollars. It's regularly $15.95, you can't beat that.
I wanted to address another thing really quick too. FarmMom left a comment on my last post that said:

Be careful though. I've heard about people who have done that and the chem residue from people's treated lawns renders their garden a barren wasteland where nothing will grow.

She was referring to the grass clippings that I had said that I scrounged from some neighbors of mine and she is absolutely right! It's very easy, if you're not careful, to introduce broad leaf weed killers into your gardens via lasagna beds or compost piles if you put chem ridden clipping in there. Thanks for bringing it up Angie, I should have mentioned that prior to collecting the clippings, I made sure to ask when the last time either of the "donors" had applied any weed killer to their lawns. They had applied a liquid spray but not since the latest June. The nice thing about liquids is that they are foliar sprays, meaning that they enter the plants through the foliage or leaves. After over three months, the bad stuff had been long mowed over and was now clean growth. So now, it's time to let nature take it's course, and make my garden beds ready for me.
Till tomorrow when, hopefully, I'll have some good news for you all.

November 10, 2008

Yeah I'm a scrounge...So what?!

Alright, it's out there. I'm a scrounge. I am, I admit it. Well, I guess in all honesty anyone who's ever read this blog for very long already knew that. There were the window frames I picked up a last year, the concrete urbanite that graces so much of our yard, and most recently all of the grass clippings other organic materials that I added to my lasagna beds. So I guess it won't strike anyone as a shock that the weekend before last, while driving through Salt Lake Cities older east side and seeing all the bags of leaves left out for the city to collect for people, that I threw a bunch in the back of the truck!
I Love freebies! Especially freebies that reduce landfill waste, give me lots of ammo for the compost pile and some really good mulch for next year! I'm hoping to stock up on a bunch more leaves this fall to add to this. They're really one of the best kind of "browns" to have available . I really liked these particular ones because of their size. You can see here that they're a good medium-small sized leaf, not like Maple or Sycamore, and will break down into the beds very well. I'll be turning these into the raised beds this fall and then topping them with more for the winter. I'll be adding them to the compost pile when I rotate it for the last time in the next couple of weeks (I need to relocate it first, but that's a future blog.) and will top off my lasagna beds with some for the winter too.

So, where else could I get leaves if I can't get more from people putting them the curb? City parks, think about it, they have to pay someone to deal with them and then just toss them in the trash anyway. I will be loaning my blower/vac to a friend to help him make it easier to clean up his leaves in return for the bags of leaves when he's done. Or maybe I'll offer to help an elderly couple clean their leaves up and just "take care of the leaves" for them. The point is, even if your house is like mine with no real trees to speak of, you can still have plenty of leaves to use in the yard.

Think outside the box, and keep an eye open to the world around you. There's so many opportunities if we'll just be open to them, and maybe put a little ego on the back burner.
Good luck

Answer IV - The Chicken Coop

Q: I would love more info on your chicken coop and how many girls (hens) you have:)
~Renee (Gardendesk.com)

Renee~ Thanks for your patience...I hope it is well deserved. Here is the coop just after I completed building it. You can see a bunch of photos of it here, and some pictures of the actual structure of the building process here.

All together I have 9 birds. Um, actually strike that, I only have six birds per my city ordinance, sometimes they just move around really really fast and look like there's 9 of them. It's an optical illusion, I swear!
Anyway, All the chickens that I have are Leghorn variety. Some are white and some are brown, but all are leghorn. I chose to get that breed for 1 white eggs (it was a sticking point on whether or not I got the birds.) and because they are prodigious layers. They are not the greatest pet breed to get, but if handled regularly do tolerate their keepers fairy well.

When I looked into the design of the coop that I finally settled on building, I took ideas from a couple of other designs that I liked, and modified them to solve a couple of things that I wanted to solve like how to give the most area per bird, how to allow airflow in the hot summers and restrict it in the winter, and how to make cleaning the coop as easy as possible. The final design works out pretty well. It is a two level coop with the hen house on top. Total there is 36 sq ft of area for the birds on only a 24 sq ft footprint. I made the coop 4'x6' because that is the size of the raised beds that I have so I can rotate the coop through the beds each season to add compost/manure to the garden where I need it. I also collect the manure in a large tote with holes in it and some leaves in there. It will be going into the garden beds to "cool off" through the winter. Here's a video that I put together to highlight the basics of the coop and so you can see the girls in action.

At the time of posting the video was having difficulties playing. If this continues I will repost a compressed version ASAP. Please let me know if you can view it.

You can see the birds aren't really crowded at all, and they do get to have some "yard time" during the summers which they love. I make sure I give them lots of greens and other veggies from the garden and the kitchen so that they have a well rounded diet, and they are doing very well.

I think that as far as chickens are concerned, the best measure of how well they are doing and their overall health is their egg production. We average 6 a day, sometimes we'll get 3, sometimes 8, but overall it's consistent. I don't have a light in the coop to stimulate them, they are Au Natural for now. I may go ahead and do that later in the year just through the dead of winter both to help with laying and to keep some heat in there, but we are waiting to see what happens as we go. If we can still get at least 4/day I will probably not coax more from them.
I hope this answers the questions for you Renee. I'm glad you asked it, I've meaning to do this post for a while and just haven't had the time to do it right. Thanks for the patience.
Stay tuned all for some new good news tomorrow I hope. Till then.

November 7, 2008

Answer III - What I'm reading

Q: What are you reading these days? Do you have blueberry bushes?



A: Well ~tp my reading list is varied and some of it is online, some of it not. I also have to admit that I am probably one of the slowest readers alive. It’s not that I don’t read well, I just over think everything. Ever have an idea pop into your head while your reading something and then you’re stuck still trying to read while ¾  of your brain is busy working out all the details of the other idea? That’s me 90% of the time, and the problem is compounded by the fact that I rarely read any fiction. It’s not that I don’t enjoy a good story, but I only have so many hours in the day and too many things that I’m interested in learning about, and as I learn something new, I get ideas so  have to read something else, so I get ideas…you get my drift.

AT any rate, onto the crux of the question, what am I reading? Short Answer: a lot. Long answer: Two books by Michael Pollan, “In Defense of Food” & “Second Natur - A Gardeners Education” Both very good books, and both a little over half way finished. And from the Michael Pollan book “Omnivore’s dilemma” if you’ve read it (and if you haven’t you should!) you might remember the farmer Joel Salatin, I’m reading his book “Everything I Want To Do Is Illegal: War Stories From the Local Food Front” and enjoying it very much so far. I also, of course read a ton of other blogs generally through my Google reader program, I have a list of good blogs that I enjoy in my right side toolbar, but it is sadly out of date and needs updating. (I have some big plans for the blog for over the winter though, so it will most likely get updated then.)  I also read Mother Earth News and from time to time pick up other magazines. And finally I read the Bible, nearly every day, at least a chapter. It’s a goal I set this year that I wanted to get through both Testaments start to finish, and am currently getting ready to finish “Kings I” in case you’re curious. I’m not very good at getting out to services, but have gained great value from The Words therein.

And there you go ~tp, a pretty good idea of what I’m reading. I have lots on my list of to-reads, but those will have to wait a bit. I’ll try to update on my progress once and a while if you’re curious. How about you, any of you, what are you reading…Any new suggestions?


Oh yes and by the way, I don’t grow blueberries…yet… but am seriously considering them and some lingonberries for next year. I have a couple of new beds that I think would be great for them so we’ll have to see. Do you? Where are you located (roughly) and do they do well?

Thanks for being patient with me in waiting for my answers. Renee, I was going to include information on the chicken coops in this post too, but I really want to get a couple of images to illustrate some of the features of it. So, if you can hold on another day, I’ll get those taken and put a detailed post up on it tomorrow.

Till then…


Am I missing something?

Is it just me or did we skip a holiday? Last I checked after Halloween and before Christmas we used to have this other holiday...Um, yeah, Thanksgiving or something like that wasn't it? What happened, did they cancel it this year?

No, I guess technically they didn't, but perhaps you've noticed the same thing as me and that is that we shifted straight from Halloween to Christmas. Actually, let me qualify that statement, the world around us seems to have gone from Halloween to Christmas, not us. We really love Thanksgiving and thoroughly look forward to enjoying it with a lot of family around us this year.

The thing is, since literally the morning after Halloween, we've been seeing advertisements for Christmas shopping, hearing Christmas music on the radio, and seeing Christmas splattered all over the stores and the newspaper ads. It really does look like the week after Thanksgiving. I can't help feeling like we're just getting sucked from one gimme holiday to another. If you really take the celebration of Halloween in the US and break it down, doesn't it really come down to a holiday where we think about getting. I mean yeah, there are a lot of adults out there who really love Halloween and that's cool, but as far as I can tell, it more or less comes down to parents buying their kids costumes and those kids going out and threatening their neighbors with pranks if they don't get candy. I kid of course, to illustrate, but you get my point. And then Christmas, well if a retail business does get into the black around Christmas then they never will. It's all about the getting too. How many times are people asked "What do you want to give for Christmas?"

So I ask you, what does it say about society right now, when in the midst of poor economic times, we are so easily led from gimme candy to gimme presents and pass up the "Thanks for all I already have" in between them? Pretty sad huh? Now I know without doubt that most if not all of the people reading this are probably real big Thanksgivingers. It just tends to go with the territory when you attract a lot of foodie, homesteading, green living folks that Thanksgiving seems to be a big deal. Here's the thing, we're all susceptible to getting caught up in "The World" and it's directions. Make your plans, both for Thanksgiving and Christmas, and do what needs to be done for both. But try to keep Thanksgiving in your heart this month. Now more than ever, I think, we need to be mindful of all our blessings, be Thankful for all we have and share it when we can with others that may be having tight times. Don't let our one big Giving holiday get marketed away.

Peace friends.

November 5, 2008

My new digs

A~, being the greatest and most supportive wife in....oh, I don't know... the world, refurnished and decorated a very cool old writing desk that we had in the garage and put in up in our bedroom so I have a nice place to sit and do my writing at nights. Now I won't be leaning up against the wall, sitting on the floor with a pillow behind me. No really, that's pretty much how 90% of my posts have been written to date.

This is a desk that we picked up a couple of years back at a thrift store for probably $5.00 max. It was in our youngest son's room for a couple of years, a place I like to call the wrecking room, and got pretty beat up. When we traded it out for a dresser, we offered it up on Freecyle but got no takers. Probably because it was so beat up. It was largely surface stuff though, and after A~ sanded it, did some Decoupage to the surface of the top with pictures of our family and the garden, it looks great and I feel like a real writer in my own personal creation station!

Thanks honey, for your love and your support of all my crazy whims. You're the best!

November 4, 2008

Answer II - Where we're going

OK...I know I was way long winded on my last answer post. I'll try to keep myself in check here.

Q1: As I've been following you for some time, I know how you got here. I'm more curious about where your going? Where do you and A see yourselves, say, 10 years from now....ideally.
~farm mom

A1: A~ and I are dreamers. It is one of those things that we've loved about each other since we first came together. I can't think of a time that we weren't planning what we wanted to do or accomplish or where we wanted to be. Through time some of the plans stay the same and some of them change, but still we always seem to have a goal that we've talked about at great length. I like to say that "it's hard to get anywhere if you don't know where you want to end up."

At some point in the future, A~ and I want to move to a place with more land. Either by moving further into the country to a place with 10 or 20 acres, or perhaps just finding a piece of land locally that is in the 2-5 acre range, we're open to the possibilities right now. We want to be able to continue to expand and improve on our homegrown foods and sustainable, self sufficient lifestyle progression. Ideally we will find a good piece of land with no home on it and be able to build an earth sheltered, alternative structure, semi off-grid home where we can maintain a productive garden and keep a few basic animals. In a few years, A~ wants to be returning to the workforce and I would like to seriously look into some type of career change. Whether that means taking the root duties that I have now, I'm a web based applications programmer, and applying them toward some business that I am truly passionate about, or changing completely and perhaps indulging my passion for growing and working the earth, I don't know yet but have no doubt that it will happen.

On a more personal level, I have a lot of goals that I hope to realize in the future as well. We'd both like to complete the Master Gardener course at our local extension office, and I'd like to start a community garden of some sort and generally become more active in my community. I also want to expand on my writing. What form that will take I don't yet know, but I enjoy sharing my thoughts with others and think I would get a great deal of enjoyment out of it.

Whatever path our life takes us down for the next ten years, I'm sure there's bound to be changes to our plans. The point is, we have plans. We have dreams and goals and we thrive together as we work toward them. And hopefully, entertain you as as well as you get to read my sharing of it all.

Q2: I'm also wondering about the boys. As my kids are still little, this life seems completely normal to them. How is it for your older children? Do they love the changes you've made over the last few years? Do the goals you have and the changes you've made make sense to them? Or are you the "weird parents" they have to explain away to friends?

I actually went to the source on this one, the boys. They don't seem too scarred, and at times I'd say they actually enjoy it. They said "It's cool." but they don't like only getting candy on Saturdays (that's a thing we do.), and regularly complain that the clothes line ruins football games in the back yard. They do seem to realize that they're being raised a little different from their friends too. They love to have their buddies go out with them to check the chickens for eggs when they come over to visit, and regularly tell us how their friends at school say their spoiled because they get homemade cookies and bread all the time. I think they probably do have to do a bit of explaining from time to time, but I honestly can't see that it's ever bothered them. We like to talk to them about why we do the things we do, that way they are invested in the process as well; they are participants, not victims. The times that are the hardest are the times when they get caught up in the "stuff" that some of their friends have. We basically explain to them that we made a decision to be able to spend more time with them, rather than to be working all the time and be able to afford whatever we wanted. They get it, but their still kids after all and it can be hard.

I think it would have been great to have raised them this way from the start, and as far as the frugality things we really have. The rest, food production, sustainability, etc. we have implemented slowly over time and haven't been a shock to them at all.

Well, I hope that answers that for you. And I hope I didn't blather on too long like I did before.
Till tomorrow.

Get Out!

Today’s the day to put this to rest.

So get up, GET OUT and vote for the best.

Mc Cain or Obama, whomever you’ll check,

Or perhaps, like me, a third party…what the heck?

Be a part of the process.

Leave your print on the day.

Whether you win or lose

It’s worth it either way.

It may be a close one…

It could be a rout,

But you won’t have a say in it

If you don’t just GET OUT!



I encourage you to be a part of this great experiment of Democracy. Get out and vote…for whomever. I chose a third party this year, my first time ever, because I wasn’t sold on either of the primary candidates. But that, my friends, is my prerogative. The biggest thing is to be a part of the process.

I would also encourage all of my readers, as I have in the past, to maintain a sense of civility regardless of the outcome. We are a nation of people and not a nation of parties. Whatever solutions we will come to for the issues that we face, will impact us all and will by necessity need to be implemented by us all. Win or lose graciously and come to the table tomorrow ready for change either way.

Now quit reading this and get out and vote!!


November 3, 2008

Liberate Your Lawn - one new bed DONE!

You may remember back a couple of months ago when I laid out our plans for how we wanted to liberate some of our lawn for new garden beds. Then, a couple of weeks ago, I started digging and working on getting our new garden bed in the backyard started. This weekend I really dug in...pun intended... and got the new bed finished. We were expecting, and received I might add, foul weather on Sunday so I really wanted to get the new bed finished up before that got here. As a part of this process I had been working also to eradicate our bindweed problem, at least in this part of the yard. All that work came to fruition this weekend.

I decided to build this bed as an experimental type of bed. Experimental for me at least. I am trying a Lasagna Bed. This isn't a garden bed where I will focus on growing the ingredients for homemade lasagna, but rather is a garden bed that will be made with multiple layers of compostable materials put down right in the prepared bedding area and allowed to compost right there. Check out the video below to get an idea of what I'm talking about in case you aren't sure.

After I covered the entire bedding area with cardboard, I spread a thin (1-2 inch) layer of soil over it to hold it down. The first image in the movie shows the first layer I put down on top of the soil which was the old bedding from the chicken coop which was part sawdust, part straw, and of course the girls "outputs" as well. Next layers in order were: straw, grass clippings (free from two of my neighbors and free of chemical herbicides.), mowed over garden waste, four bags of coffee grounds from Starbucks, straw, homemade compost, grass clippings, straw and peat moss.

Fall is really the optimal time to do this kind of bedding. For the obvious reason of course that there are so many available greens and browns to add to a pile like this in the fall, but also, because it will allow the materials to sit over the next 4-5 months and get snow melt and rain down into it, breaking it down into a soft humus for planting in, or at least that's the plan. I will be adding to the top of this pile, one last think layer of materials, leaves. I recently acquired a lot of them, but I'll cover that in another post in a couple of days, but leaves are truly a great composter.

I can't say I enjoyed making this bed, it was a lot of hard work. I had to move, break and set all the concrete "urbanite" stones for the bed hardscaping, break up the ground below the cardboard, remove the bindweed, and load all the greens and browns into the beds. I think it will be a good bed for us though. It is on the north side of our southern fence line, so it will be the last bed in the yard to get full sun in the summer, and the first to lose it in the fall, but what I'm planning to do is to maximize that micro climate for a lot of the cool season things that won't normally grown here in the summer to see how much I can extend their seasons. As always, we'll see.
Hope you all had a great weekend. More coming soon.